Friday February 19, 2010

Proper Reality  1985-2010 

We lost one of our great old warriors today.  Twenty-five year old Proper Reality was euthanized, after a bad bout of colic this morning.  

 Proper Reality’s sireline ran five generations back to the great Man o’ War, not something you see everyday, and not to be taken lightly.  He was a smallish, dark bay horse and while he didn’t look anything like his famous multiple-great granddad, he nonetheless won 1.7 million dollars in his racing career.   He won big races—10 of them in 19 starts–including wins in the Southwest, Illinois and Arkansas Derbies.  He also ran fourth behind the great filly Winning Colors in the 1988 Kentucky Derby, a race with wonderful horses like Risen Star, Seeking the Gold, and Forty Niner.  At Old Friends, he was our highest-placing Derby runner.  His successful racing career is especially relevant I think, because Proper was a good example of the correlation between great racehorse and just plain smart horse. 

Since his arrival, Proper lived in one of the two paddocks directly behind the small farm office.  He loved this particular space, and it was well-suited to his personality.   He quickly figured out two things.  First, he discovered people plus buckets equal attention.  Second, and more impressive, he learned that a tour group walking along the south side of his fenceline would eventually walk back along the north side of his fence.  And Proper never, ever missed a chance to greet you at both fences.   In fact, I’m more than half convinced he tried to look “different” the second time around, on the chance we wouldn’t realize he’d already gobbled his share of the carrots!  

Proper was one of our kinder, attention-loving stallions.  Kids could pat him, and he somehow seemed to know when a horse novice was in our group.  He never failed to stand especially still for non-horse people to fuss over him, and I know he put a little extra spark into his camera pose for them.  But it also wouldn’t surprise me if he was a bit of a pistol to handle in his day, because he did have that look in his eye that said “I’ll do it my way.”  Nevertheless, he totally understood his job at Old Friends, and he was a fine ambassador for retired racehorses. 

I always felt a little extra connection to Proper, maybe because I was the person who spent a few minutes preparing his stall just before his arrival.  I put in some fresh straw, filled his water bucket and added a few flakes of hay.  He arrived in late in the day, and the next morning when he was turned out, he spent a couple minutes running around, winding up his neighbors.  As soon as Bull and Norty started showing off, Proper just rolled his eyes and settled down to graze.  He had made his point:  “I’m here now, boys.  And I‘ve still got it!”     

Proper had a beautiful way of moving, light on his feet and graceful.  I saw him happily romp around when he felt especially good, and I saw him contentedly take long naps in the sunshine.  Whenever I saw Proper run, I never failed to think, wow, that horse raced with Winning Colors.  The stories he could tell… 

Logically, with our thinking brains, we know that Old Friends is a farm populated with aged horses.  We should, and do, expect these days.  Still, it doesn’t matter that we know it because when we lose one, it hurts.  There is always someone– a farm or track worker, maybe a fan or volunteer or former owner somewhere– who counted that particular horse among their favorites.  For those people, times like today are especially heart-wrenching.  Proper had made more than his share of friends since arriving at Old Friends.  I don’t know how much luckier a horse person, a racing fan could be, than to get to know a horse like him. 




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14 responses to “Friday February 19, 2010

  1. Brianna Q

    Awwww RIP Proper Reality 😦

  2. Jean in VA.

    So sorry to hear of Proper’s passing. I’m sure he is now running with all of his racing buddies.
    Wish I could have met him but reading everything you had to say made me feel like I knew him.

    Thanks Val.

  3. MRO

    So sad. I’m crying. I saw him at OF in September, so now I feel like he was one of mine. I could tell he was happy there. What a beautiful, lovely boy. Thanks to all for the care he was given during his 25 years. RIP

  4. Ever since I found, bought and retrained my first OTTB, who happens to still be with me, I can’t help but wonder what they’ve seen over the years… How they’ve seen and lived so much and, especially these big time boys like Proper, are much like Olympic athletes, and we can never truly know how many lives they’ve touched. My guy raced for 8 years before retiring and, just from knowing him now, he must have been something else on the track. There are days when I just stand at the fenceline, watching him graze on the Kentucky bluegrass, and wonder, how many owners, trainers, jockeys, riders, etc. wonder about him from time to time? He’s not one you forget easily… just as Proper wasn’t. Proper will be greatly missed… By those who knew him last week and those who knew him a quarter of a century before. Thank you for sharing him with us… RIP Proper Reality
    – Lindsey

  5. Carol

    Proper Reality will be greatly missed. He was the perfect horse to place in the paddock behind the farmhouse. Proper had an air of dignity and such a wise expression in his eyes, telling the world he had experienced alot in his life-similar to the look Taylor’s Special had, but without evidence of the past adversity which could be seen when looking into Taylor’s eyes.

    I am SO glad that we were able to see him last fall. I always had alot of respect for his accomplishments. Proper Reality seemed to never fail to give everything he had in each of his races. I was very excited when it was announced that he would be coming to Old Friends, as I had lost track of him and didn’t know if he was still living. What a shame that he couldn’t have been with all of you a little longer.

    Val, I look forward to reading your fantastic accounts each week. You have a knack for enabling the readers to visualize what you had seen on your tour.

  6. Mary

    Val, I am so sorry. I know the truth of what you say: Even if you intectually know something is coming it hurts like the devil when it actually happens. I’m thankful for what Proper did and all the others (human and equine) are doing at Old Friends to expand knowledge and love for the athletes racehorses are.

  7. Ruth Ann

    So sorry to hear this! 😦 R.I.P. Proper, you are now running with your granddad, and I know that he is very proud of you!

  8. Rich Hoffmann

    I was very, very sad to hear of Proper’s passing. I only got to know him for a couple of days last May but it was obvious what a classy horse he was. He was in a great spot to be a prime greeter at the farm and he certainly knew what he was doing. I will miss seeing him when I visit this year. I know what you say about working and getting to know older horses but it doesn’t make it any easier when they leave us. This guy was a perfect Old Friend. Sadly, Rich

    • oldfriendsblog

      thanks to everyone for your kind thoughts–we all appreciate it. I think Proper is somewhere seriously enjoying all this attention!

  9. allie

    Our deepest sympathies on the loss of a great horse. We were at Old Friends this fall and saw Proper gazing out across his paddock. A super horse. We didn’t get an up close photo and were looking forward to visiting in the spring to see everyone again. We thank you for all OF does. Rest in peace dear Proper Reality

  10. Colmel

    So sorry to hear of Proper’s passing. He was one of the last of a truly great generation. At least we can know, without the shadow of a doubt, that his last days were where he was loved and cared for. Thank heavens for Old Friends!


  11. D. Masters

    Michael and staff:

    Thank you for caring for Proper and all the greats, known well and hardly known.

    The dignity that you provided coupled with the dignity that these magnificent animals exude only forges the resolve to treat these noble animals with the respect that not only they deserve, but earned.

    Thanks for being there for Proper and all these great athletes. Thanks for sharing his passing and his being.

    God bless the horse, because the horse certainly blesses us with it’s being. Thank you Proper…thank you for sharing your life with us.

  12. S. Boquist

    I have one of Proper Reality’s progeny (Be My Reality out of Be My Sweetheart). In reading your description of Proper Reality, I understand now where my mare got her wonderful attitude, manner, grit and talent. At 19 she is Eventing successfully at Novice/Training and wants to be the first one out the door every morning. Her name now: Class Act. Thank you for sharing and taking such good care of her Dad.

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